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Silverado Canyon mansions get OK

Times Staff Writer

A new environmental report for the controversial construction of 12 mansions in rustic Silverado Canyon was approved Tuesday by the Orange County Board of Supervisors, but opponents promised another court challenge that could delay the project again.

Las Vegas based developer Marnell Corrao Associates had received approval from the board in 2003 to build the homes, but the project was blocked by an Orange County Superior Court judge, who found the company’s environmental impact report flawed and ordered a new study.

Supervisors approved the new report Tuesday, despite protests from opponents who said that the recent discovery of the endangered southwestern arroyo toad in Silverado Creek called for another report. The board’s vote was 5 to 0.

Opponents of the project said the toad’s larvae were found in the creek and quoted from a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service letter in July that said evidence of the toad’s presence was detected.

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A biologist for the developer agreed that the larvae were found but said there was no other signs the toad lived there. Company officials said that surveys done in 2005 and 2006 failed to find signs of the toad. Supervisor Bill Campbell, whose district includes the development site, said he was told that the larvae may have been planted by opponents of the project.

His comments produced a chorus of protests from opponents, who numbered about 24.

The board also rejected pleas from Anita Cruz Espinoza, who identified herself as a member of the Juaneño Band of Mission Indians, that the area is a Native American archaeological site.

The project is planned on what was once called Holtz Ranch, used for farming and raising turkeys. Marnell Corrao bought the 320-acre property in 1999 and plans to build a dozen “equestrian estates” on about 69 acres.

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An attorney for the developer said the price of the homes had not been determined.

Dawn Lee Lynch, a Realtor, told the board the homes would cost more than $3 million. The homes “won’t sell in today’s market conditions” and the project should not be approved, she said.

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hgreza@latimes.com

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